Pubdate: Sun, 11 Nov 2007
Source: Daily Pilot (Costa Mesa, CA)
Copyright: 2007 Daily Pilot
Author: James P. Gray
Note: James P. Gray is an Orange County Superior Court judge and 
author of the book, "Why Our Drug Laws Have Failed and What We Can Do 
About It -- A Judicial Indictment Of The War On Drugs." He can be 
reached ... at his blog site at


Recently I heard about a poll taken of high school students that asked
them two questions. The first was: "What are the benefits of being a
citizen of the United States of America?"

The students generally responded by furnishing a long list of
benefits, such as enjoying our Constitutional freedoms, entitlement to
a good education and such things as clean air and water, the promise
of a good job and a gratifying life.

The second question was: "What are the responsibilities of being a
citizen of the United States of America?"

That list was quite short, with most students providing only a few
comments about reasonably paying your taxes and voting in elections,
and a few mentioned jury service as well. That was all.

What a sorry situation! Of course we have benefits conferred upon us
by being blessed to be citizens of this great country. But with those
also come responsibilities! And if our children do not realize this
fact, we have no one to blame but ourselves!

So what are the responsibilities that go along with citizenship? Yes,
it is our responsibility to protect our Constitution, pay our lawful
taxes, serve on juries and vote in elections. But there is so much
more, and we are remiss in not focusing upon these duties both for
ourselves and for our children.

In my view it is our fundamental responsibility to try to leave this
world a better place than we found it.

That means we do not pollute or otherwise "foul our nest," even though
we may not get a tax break for it. We clean up after ourselves, and we

Yes, we should vote in elections. But simply voting the way other
people tell us to, or worse, the way the advertisements indoctrinate
us to is not the desired end. Instead it is our responsibility to be
educated and informed voters!

And we should readily agree to serve on juries, because in that way we
play an important part of our own government.

But our responsibilities do not stop there. We have an affirmative
responsibility in a republic to inform ourselves and to speak out on
the issues of our day.

We also have an obligation to seek out good candidates for office and
support them. This support should not be limited to giving money to
their campaigns, but should also include walking precincts for them,
putting up yard signs and opening our doors for fundraisers and "meet
and greet" sessions to introduce the candidates to our neighbors.

Did you notice, as I did, after the horrors of 9/11 all of the
American flags that people flew on their cars? But did you also notice
that the turnout at the next election was distressingly poor? Where
were all of those flag-waving people when it came time to vote?

Of course there are many other legal and moral obligations that go
along with good citizenship, like helping to feed the poor, provide
for the elderly and mentally disabled, honoring one's parents and
obeying our laws. These are generally well recognized. But there is at
least one more that often avoids notice, and that is the
responsibility of mentoring.

Those of us who are blessed to have "chosen our parents well" also
have a responsibility to help to mentor those children who did not
"choose" their parents quite as effectively.

There is absolutely no substitute for raising children with large
helpings of "the old one-two," which is love and affection, on the one
hand, and personal responsibility on the other. We can provide those
things and a good example to children both in our public and our
private lives. We as mentors can do that.

But why discuss all of this today? Because today is Veterans Day, and
we also have a responsibility to the veterans of our Armed Forces.
This means more than simply expressing our appreciation to them for
their service -- although that is important. When these men and women
answered the call -- for whatever reason -- and put on the uniform of
our military forces, for our part we promised to support them all the

That means we protect them with the best military training and
material we reasonably can provide. Furthermore, if they are killed
while in our service, we will take their place in providing reasonable
care for their dependents. And if these vets are injured we will
provide them with first-rate care for as long as it is reasonably required.

By the way, it also means that if we see veterans who are amputees or
otherwise seriously injured, we will not look away from them as if
they are unlike the rest of us. Instead we will look them in the eye
as normal people, thank them sincerely for their service to our
country and treat them like the heroes that they are.

Whether we agree with the political decisions to have put our troops
into Korea, Vietnam, Panama, Kuwait, Afghanistan or Iraq is simply not
the issue. We always keep our promises to our troops. Part of the
funding of a war is the funding of its casualties. It is an act of
responsible citizenship.

The three most patriotic places I have ever been in my life are the
Arlington National Cemetery, Ellis Island and the USS Arizona Memorial
in Hawaii. Frankly, I got tears in my eyes and extra strength in my
heart from my visits to each place. Especially at the USS Arizona,
which has a memorial that is constructed lower in the middle over the
sunken battleship. This symbolizes the lowest ebb of our morale and
spirit when the ship went down, and higher on the sides as we moved
away from the tragedy.

Our morale and spirit climb when we take our responsibilities of
citizenship seriously and thereby do our part to contribute to the
continuing greatness of our country. So please join with me in flying
your flag proudly today in celebration of Veterans Day. And along the
way, let us join together in the contemplation of and commitment to
good citizenship and all that this commitment entails.

Our troops today and throughout our history have shown their
commitment and citizenship by having safeguarded our freedoms and our
heritage, often at great personal sacrifice. We owe it to them and to
our country to carry out our commitments as well. 
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MAP posted-by: Richard Lake